“We went from doing $40,000 a month in sales to $40,000 a day in sales.”
— Shane Jaeger
Talk about the power of mergers. Shane Jaeger is the president of operations for Dallas-based The Lawton Group, which has 135 employees and had $23 million in sales in 2020. Formerly part of a father-son, two-man operation, Jaeger proudly notes, “We went from doing $40,000 a month in sales to $40,000 a day in sales.”
In an episode of the “Toolbox for the Trades” podcast, Jaeger talks about picking the right merger partners, the fix-versus-replace mentality, and watching the bottom-line during company growth.
Here are Shane Jaeger’s top pieces of advice for service trade management:
Key TakeawaysGet to know your potential merger partners.Mergers work out better between similar companies.Watch out for a “fix-versus-replace” tech mindset. Going from $40K per month to $40K per day takes organization. During growth periods, watch the bottom line. Take care of your employees and they will take care of customers.Invest in web scheduling for your customers.Utilize industry support groups. Recommend research and reading
Get to know your potential merger partners.
It might not always be easy to forge a personal-level relationship with a possible merger partner, but Jaeger says it really helps things go more smoothly.
“On a non-business-related level, you can bounce ideas off each other,” he says. “There are just so many aspects of a merger that, if you don’t think about them, can throw a wrench into it.”
Mergers work out better between similar companies.
In addition to managing a personal relationship with a potential merger partner, you’ve also got to get a firm handle on how the other company is run, Jaeger says. The more similar, the better.
“For example, if they aren’t flat-rate pricing, that’s completely different than us,” he says. “The value to us would be a lot less because we might not retain as many of those customers. That wouldn’t be a good match.”
Watch out for a “fix-versus-replace” tech mindset.
Jaeger believes techs sometimes pride themselves on fixing a unit or doing a job rather than looking for a sales opportunity.
“A tech is likely to think about how they’d do this job at their own home,” he says. “They fix it quickly and don’t even think about it. We definitely teach techs options. You never know that maybe a homeowner never liked that toilet from the day they moved in.”
Going from $40K per month to $40K per day takes organization.
Rapid growth demands organization, Jaeger says. In the beginning, he says, small companies have individuals overseeing whatever their specialty is. Then, as more people come into the business, the organization chart can get crazy, and difficult to follow.
“We had to go through a reorganization a couple of years ago and really helped us a lot,” Jaeger says. “We used a program called traction EOS that really helped us a lot. I'm a big fan of it.”
During growth periods, watch the bottom line.
Over the course of his 17-year career, Jaeger says one thing he would have done differently is be more aware of the bottom line instead of solely focusing on growth.
“It was all about how fast we can grow, how big we can get,” he says. “But we weren’t as profitable as we should have been while we did that. You can let growth happen naturally. There’s no point to grow if the bottom line isn’t growing, too.”
Take care of your employees and they will take care of customers.
Jaeger says many of the company’s customers are long-timers and have techs that they request year after year because they know what kind of service they can expect.
“We definitely value our employees, and they know that we do,” Jaeger says. “And we know they take care of our customers. Most of our techs have been with us for 10 years or more.”
Invest in web scheduling for your customers.
Anytime a customer can book online and not tie up a CSR is helpful, Jaeger says. And he’s seeing a rise in online scheduling. "We're probably getting 10 or 12 [bookings] a day on that scheduling. Our GSL, the Google Local Service, our Home Advisor, the Yelp booking, those are all tremendous."
However, sometimes you don’t get the most accurate account of the customer’s needs from a web booking. “If that happens, we’ll call the customers,” he says. “There’s an argument that you miss out on information with web bookings, so you have to stay on top of them.”
Utilize industry support groups.
Within ServiceTitan, Jaeger is on the Green Team of the Spark Group. “We get together once a month, or every two weeks to talk about different aspects and how we're doing things,” he says. “It’s been very beneficial.”
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